Thursday, February 26, 2015

Vancouver & Banff National Park

Jeff and I are heading up to Vancouver for a wedding in late spring so we're looking to spend a few days in Banff National Park. It might still be a bit chilly then but we can't exactly ask our friends to move their wedding date to accommodate the weather. I think it'll be beautiful regardless!

I've been to Banff once nine years ago with my family - we went with a tour at the time so I remember a lot of long bus rides and short stops. I can't wait to go on our own this time, especially since this will be Jeff's first time there. And of course, I love travel planning so I've already started mapping out a tentative itinerary:

Day 1 & 2

  • Vancouver

Day 3 

  • Fly to Calgary
  • Drive 90 minutes to Banff

Day 4

  • Explore Banff area

Day 5

  • Moraine Lake
  • Lake Louise
  • Yoho National Park

Day 6

  • Columbia Icefields

Day 7

  • Johnston Canyon
  • Drive back to Calgary
  • Fly home to SFO

I'm still doing a ton of research and nothing's been booked yet so this could still change. But I'm excited - and I love travel planning!

Banff, August 2006

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tiramisu recipe

We were lucky enough to celebrate Lunar New Year's twice this year. Our friend Jessica invited a group of us church friends over for hotpot.  I offered to bring tiramisu - somehow this has become my signature dish to bring for this group over the years. It's a pretty easy recipe so I'm always happy to oblige when it's requested. While it's not particularly photogenic, it's super delicious!

I've adapted this recipe from - Jeff particularly likes that it doesn't involve any raw eggs, as he finds raw eggs gross and unhygenic. 

  •  6 egg yolks
  •  3/8 cup white sugar
  •  2/3 cup milk
  •  1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1/2 pound mascarpone cheese
  •  1 cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
  •  2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies
  •  1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover and chill in refrigerator. (The directions says to chill for an hour but I usually don't have the patience to wait more than 20-30 minutes.)
  2. In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. 
  3. Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise and drizzle with coffee.
  4. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.
  5. Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7x11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. 
  6. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


The morning right after our abundant Chinese New Year feasting, Jeff and I drove up to Napa to meet his cousins at Solbar for a delicious lunch. They're visiting from Taiwan so I wanted to make sure I picked a great restaurant - the Michelin star didn't hurt either. I liked that the Sunday brunch menu was a bit more than eggs and waffles. Luckily, Solbar didn't disappoint! We chose to eat family style so that everyone could try a little of everything.

Here's what we ordered (clockwise from top right):
  • beet salad
  • scallops
  • lucky pig
  • fish tacos
  • shrimp lettuce cups
  • fried chicken & french fries (not pictured)
Our favorites were the fish tacos, shrimp lettuce cups, and fried chicken. The food was quite reasonably priced, considering the location and Michelin star rating. Along with a bottle of rose, our total was less than $50/person (including tax and tip). After all that, we were stuffed so we passed on dessert! 

My only gripe was the service. We were consistently out of water - the servers would constantly come by to ask how we were doing but never take the initiative to refill our water. Also, we had half a pot of pork left from our lucky pig dish and they never offered to wrap it up for us. When they came to take it away, we just assumed they would wrap it up for us. Our mistake perhaps, but there was over half a pound of pork left. It wasn't until we are all in the car empty-handed that I realized no one received a to go box for all that leftover pork. Big fail, Solbar! 

Next time, I'll do my best to plan early and get a reservation for Auberge du Soleil. Much better views and service along with excellent food!

Monday, February 23, 2015

New Year's Feasting & A Not-So-Oily Sticky Rice Recipe

This past weekend, we had an amazing Lunar New Year potluck with friends at our house. There were only 6 of us so there were plenty of scrumptious leftovers for everyone to take home. I'm blessed to be friends with such great cooks! I'm probably biased but I honestly believe the food we made (and ate) was just as good, if not better than the food I've had in a lot of restaurants. 

Clockwise from top right:

  • oily rice 油飯 (recipe below!)
  • braised pork belly 紅燒肉
  • fermented rice with sticky rice balls 酒釀湯圓 
  • steamed snapper with tofu
  • drunken chicken 醉雞
  • the whole spread in one shot!

For those who are interested, here is an approximate recipe for the "oily rice" (油飯). Even though it's called oily rice, it really isn't very oily at all. It's made with a special sticky rice and is savory and delicious all at once!


  1. Soak mushrooms in water for 1-2 hours (or until soft). Save the water and dice the mushrooms.
  2. Cook rice separately in rice cooker (I had to do a little trial and error to figure out the right proportions - may differ by rice cooker).
  3. Dice up the pork chops and marinate the meat in soy sauce and sugar.
  4. Cook dried shrimp in oil and then add mushrooms.
  5. Cook for awhile and add mushroom water when it gets dry.
  6. Add red shallots.
  7. When it starts smelling fragrant, clear out space on pan.
  8. Add oil in cleared space and put meat in.
  9. Cook thoroughly until meat is done.
  10. Add more soy sauce and sugar.
  11. Remove from heat.
  12. Mix meat, mushrooms, shallots, and shrimp with cooked rice.
  13. Adjust taste by adding soy sauce and sugar until the taste and color are right.

Thank goodness for friends and family that make each year even better than the last. Happy Year of the Sheep to all!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Through the Rain

I came across this picture on my phone that I took a few weeks ago while driving in the rain. This is one of the most vivid rainbows I've ever seen in person. I hope we continue to get rain in California...we really need it!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Valentine's Weekend in LA part II

No trip to LA is complete without Korean BBQ. This time we tried Soowon Galbi with Jeff's cousins. This isn't a buffet but we still left very stuffed! They don't take reservations so we got there at 5pm - we still had to wait 30 minutes but it was well worth it. Of course, we had many portions of galbi:

Even though we were stuffed, we had to make room for their famous ice cream macarons. I opted for strawberry, which looked more like watermelon. The ice cream flavor was light and fruity, although the macaron was a bit crunchy. 

We love getting Taiwanese breakfast favorites and baked goods at JJ Bakery - here's a peek at their selection:

We also checked out Lemonade, which I found a bit overrated and pricey. The 5 item salad bar for over $11 is ridiculous - it was just 5 small scoops of food! I didn't expect to pay almost $50 for lunch for 3 - especially when it's cafeteria style food. I did like the truffle mac n cheese and blueberry mint lemonade but I won't be coming back here. The regular lemonade's not even that great. There's way better and more affordable food in LA to be had!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentine's Weekend in LA part I

We spent Valentine's / President's Day weekend in Los Angeles, which of course means we had delicious food. Porto's is a super popular bakery and cafe in LA. Whenever we come here, we always get a box of guava cheese pastries. Don't judge - we share! 

Here's a close up of their yummy potato balls, another Porto's favorite.

This was my first time trying their Caprese sandwich. Definitely won't be my last!

101 Noodle Express has all my favorite Chinese comfort foods, cooked just the way I like them. Their potstickers are perfectly crispy and juicy.

I'm also a big fan of their chicken noodle soup - the handmade noodles are chewy and thick and the chicken broth is amazing.

I actually like bubble tea more in NorCal because they have so many authentic chains from Taiwan but the fresh fruit teas at AU79 are pretty delicious too. Passion orange tea is my favorite.

This is only what we ate in the first half of the weekend! Part 2 to come...

Monday, February 16, 2015


This past week, I was in Vegas for a conference. Clearly my phone enjoys Vegas - here's what it said every time I checked the weather app:

I normally stay at the Palazzo but this time it was all booked so I ended up at the Venetian instead. The Venetian is older but the layout and style is very similar to the Palazzo. It wasn't old and dingy like some colleagues had warned me it might be - not sure if my room had been updated?

I was in the Venezia Tower so my suite had a view of the Venetian tower.

My very large, comfortable suite for just me. One of the few differences I could spot between the Venetian and the Palazzo - Palazzo has remote controls for the curtains, whereas the Venetian curtains need to be adjusted manually. Not sure that qualifies the Venetian for the "old and dingy" category. 

An even more impressive bathroom - pretty sure this is almost bigger than my bedroom. The Venetian bathrooms don't come equipped with TV screens like the Palazzo ones do - somehow, I managed to survive. :)

The lobby was festively decorated for Chinese New Year. Happy Year of the Sheep!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Girl's Day Out Recap

Katie's girl's day out was a huge success! She didn't know what we had planned for the day so every time we got into the car, she looked for clues to figure out where we were headed. She admitted to being nervous so we took advantage of that by teasing her that strippers were an integral part of the day's activities (spoiler alert: we lied, they never showed up...hehe).

The bridesmaids plus Katie started the day with brunch at Cafe Borrone. I knew there would be much more gluttony later on in the day so I opted for a delicious, healthy-ish salad with avocado, blood oranges, and walnuts. Most of the time, I get the French dip sandwich or Belgian waffles with berries here.

From there, we picked up the rest of the girls and headed to Dry Bar. I asked for the Cosmo blowout and ended up looking like Shirley Temple...huge fail! The stylist insisted on tighter curls because they would relax throughout the day. That never happened, even though she didn't add any product...oh well. This was still a fun activity though! But you can't really chat with your friends during the styling since it's really loud and they can't guarantee that groups can sit together. 

Afterwards, we headed to La Jolie for pedicures. We were super early, since I added in lots of buffer time between appointments, just in case. You just never know with a large group! Luckily, La Jolie was gracious enough to let us lounge in the front with some champagne and soda until it was our turn. 

Once our feet were properly pedicured, we headed over to Village Pub for dinner. My scallops were fairly light so I had plenty of room for my favorite dessert - their chocolate souffle! Better than Alexander's and Cafe Jacqueline's, in my humble opinion. 

After dinner, we went back to Donna's house for some scrapbooking, gifts, and more dessert. It was super tame but we all had a lot of fun chatting late into the night. :) Katie said she had a great time, despite (or because of?) the lack of scandalous activities. Of course I'm biased, but I'd like to think this was a pretty well-planned day. Catching up with girlfriends while getting pampered is the best - we need to schedule these more often!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday

Jeff decided last minute to throw a Super Bowl party - and I was probably one of the last to find out! Despite my need to over-plan everything in advance, we managed just fine with 36 hours notice. It helped that our generous friends brought wings, guac, cookies, and chips. I also had leftover Espresso Chip Angel Food Cake (from Angel Heart Cakes) courtesy of Katie's non-shower the day before, so our food prep was minimal. 

On top of all that, Jeff made chicken satay with peanut sauce and salsa, Sandy and I made caprese salad skewers (a la Piatti's), and Bryan made sangria. Here's the recipe for the chicken satay and peanut sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (8 oz each) sliced into thin 1/2 inch strips
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • red pepper flakes for garnishing
  1. Marinate chicken strips in peanut oil and garlic for about 30 minutes and then grill.  
  2. Sprinkle cilantro and red pepper flakes on top.
Peanut Sauce
  • 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or dash of chili sauce
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. (We do it by hand because we're lazy.)
I don't watch football so I wasn't particularly interested in the outcome of the Super Bowl. I am a marketer so I did find the commercials interesting. If I'm being really honest, it helps to see the reactions of others as they watch commercials so that I can better understand what kind of advertising does and does not work. Yes, I can be a huge nerd sometimes. :)

Plus, it's always fun to get together with friends at home. I guess I've always been a homebody because this has always been the easiest, funnest way for me to hang out with friends. Even during my single days, I was never really into  clubbing or barhopping. I've always preferred staying in with good food and great company - I guess the former is technically optional, if not highly preferable. Luckily I've got great friends that can indulge these preferences!